Leistikow: Jordan Bohannon again the hero to slay Indiana, but he had plenty of help
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Everything — and I mean everything — was going 100 percent wrong for Iowa as Friday night’s Big Ten Conference basketball game wound down.
Isaiah Moss, an 83 percent free-throw shooter, missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Nicholas Baer clanged a wide-open 3 from the right corner. And Indiana’s Juwan Morgan, a poor and occasional 3-point shooter, swished one from deep to give the visitors a 62-56 lead with 2 minutes, 25 seconds to go at stunned Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
That string of unfortunate events against a Hoosiers team that came here with 11 losses in 12 games was probably why even cool-under-pressure Jordan Bohannon felt jittery as he stepped to the free-throw line for his own 1-and-1 with 2:17 to go.
It just didn't seem meant to be.
“I don’t get nervous too often at the free throw line,” Bohannon said, “but that was a little nerve-racking.”
The first one swished. Whew.
The second one bounced on the rim, off the backboard … and in. Double whew.
“The ball felt like it was in the air for a while,” Bohannon said.
After that, everything — and I mean everything — went 100 percent right for the Hawkeyes.
And you know the drill by now. Bohannon puts on his Superman cape. Hits one crazy 3-pointer after another. And the Hawkeyes swipe another one out of thin air — this victory in overtime, by a 76-70 count before a sold-out crowd of 15,056.
“We just keep coming at you,” said Luka Garza, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. “You can never put us away.”
As they did when overcoming a 15-point deficit in the final 4½ minutes to beat Northwestern two weekends ago, the Hawkeyes were perfect when it counted.
Bohannon was great. Beyond great. But this comeback win that elevated Iowa's record to 21-6 took gutsy, smart and fortunate individual plays on every possession — and that was just to reach overtime.
Let’s start with Baer. After Bohannon’s free throws cut it to 62-58, Morgan got the ball in deep for what looked to be an easy layup. But Baer soared to cleanly get his hand on the ball — stifling Morgan’s attempt. Jump ball. Alternating possession to Iowa, with 1:49 left. A major turning point.
On the other end, Bohannon flung a wild lob pass to Tyler Cook — who did all he could just to get his fingers on the ball.
“Honestly, when I tipped it, I couldn’t see the hoop,” said Cook, who scored a team-high 18 points with eight boards.
Yet somehow, the ball fell through the net. It was 62-60, on a fluky bucket with 1:32 to go.
After that, Indiana's Romeo Langford drove the lane and scored — but was called for charging, as Garza used film-study savvy to slide into position to negate the basket with 1:05 left. Garza hasn't been too lucky with foul calls lately, but he knew he had this one.
“I tried to anticipate that," Garza said, "and stand there like a statue until he knocked me over."
Even after Iowa’s ensuing empty possession, another fortunate break occurred when Rob Phinisee’s second free throw misfired, That kept Indiana's lead at three, 63-60.
Then … Bohannon time.
From the right wing, with a defender in his face, Bohannon connected to make it 63-63. Give Fran McCaffery credit for calling a recently-installed play to get his most clutch player a tying attempt.
“Great execution," the Iowa coach said, "and a big shot by a great player."
Even still, with 28 seconds left, there was more work to do. Iowa's defense forced a Langford 3-point try, which missed. Meantime, Bohannon — all 6 feet of him — used his butt to aggressively box out Morgan (6-8, 232 pounds) to keep him off balance and incapable of a winning put-back.
Bohannon, as is his reputation, put the Hawkeyes on his shoulders in the extra five minutes.
“Once a guy like that makes one, you’re sort of at his mercy,” said Indiana coach Archie Miller, who 15 days earlier saw Bohannon drain a cold-blooded 11 points in the final 91 seconds of Iowa’s 77-72 win in Bloomington. “His range is great. He might have got one open one.”
This time, Bohannon hit three overtime 3-pointers — none of them routine — to turn a 65-65 game into a 75-70 lead with 20 seconds to go.
“He just started hitting shots. We were on him all game,” Indiana’s De’Ron Davis marveled. “Those last five minutes, he went kind of crazy. (Devonte) Green was there on every shot, they were just falling.”
The last heave might have been the most remarkable. A man in his face, right of the key, pulling up with a quick release from the hip. The only surprise is that it didn’t hit all net. It rattled home — and rattled the arena's rafters.
"I’m a big believer ... that the game will come to you as long as you keep working hard," said Bohannon, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the final 2:17 of regulation and overtime.
By now, nobody is surprised at Bohannon's clutch heroics.
But let’s be clear — the junior guard is ready for a break from these breathtaking finishes. Iowa's last four games, including three wins, have been decided in the final seconds.
“I feel like my brain’s about to explode,” Bohannon said.
He planned a Saturday of sleep and playing Fortnite. A day off from basketball.
The Hawkeyes have earned one. They’ve now tied for the most wins in a regular season under McCaffery — with two weeks and four games to go. At 10-6 in Big Ten play, they’re solidly in the top six of the best league in America. More opportunities for big wins come soon, starting Tuesday at Ohio State.
They needed to find a way to steal this one. And thanks to Bohannon — but not only Bohannon — they did.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 24 years with the Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.